Fear Not: Writing Center Offers Tutoring in Public Speaking

By Katy Shenk 
Elm Staff Writer

There’s no question about it: delivering a speech or a presentation to a room full of peers is a daunting task. This semester, the Writing Center is introducing Presentation and Public Speaking sessions for students who want to refine their oral communication skills.

Dr. John Boyd, director of the Writing Center, said he believes that the lack of current instruction for students in regards to public speaking is a need that the Writing Center can address.

He noted the similarities between crafting a traditional written assignment and composing a presentation.

“We deal with traditional written communication, so the new offerings are a natural extension of the Writing Center,” he said.

Last semester, five of the Writing Center’s Peer Consultants spent approximately 20 hours in training, where they learned how to assist students through the various stages of presentation planning. They used the book “Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery” by Garr Reynolds as a starting point for their discussions.

The students focused on the phrase “Develop, Design, Deliver,” which describes the three main phases of planning a presentation. Additionally, they noted other strategies and online resources that would be helpful in coaching their peers through their various projects.

The Peer Consultants also worked with a number of Communications and Media Studies majors under the direction of Dr. Alicia Kozma, the department chair.

“Dr. Kozma talked with them about strategies and how to evaluate visual presentations,” Dr. Boyd said.

Students who meet with a Peer Consultant can receive guidance with brainstorming and storyboarding when their project is still purely on the page. Dr. Boyd also expects students may seek help with the visual components of creating a PowerPoint.

Finally, students can rehearse their presentation in front of an audience for feedback.

“Regarding public speaking, I think that’s one thing most of us don’t do enough of,” Dr. Boyd said in reference to running through a presentation out loud.

Dr. Boyd said he believes the sessions will be helpful for students across the board, from the sciences to the humanities. The Peer Consultants themselves represent a number of academic disciplines.

Sophomore Emily Kreider, presentation consultant, has experience in assisting students with position papers, literary analyses, and argumentative writing. She, like Dr. Boyd, described the introduction of presentation tutoring sessions as a response to what students at WC want and need.

“We decided that since this seemed like an area students were seeking assistance in, it would be beneficial to begin preparing tutors to help with these kinds of projects. Our goal at the writing center is not to create better writing, but to create better writers,” she said.

Kreider also discussed the components students should consider when looking to improve their public speaking skills.

“The way the slides are organized, the format of the presentation, and the speaker’s knowledge of material and interaction with the audience all must be taken into account. As a result, presentation tutoring sessions don’t just focus on the words of a project, but how they are presented and whether they will effectively communicate to the audience what the speaker is trying to say,” she said.

The four other Writing and Presentation Consultants are Lisa Hamilton, Saoirse, Charles Yang, and Marah Tarawneh.

To meet with one of the Peer Consultants listed above, students should make an appointment through the Writing Center’s website. Under the “Limit To” menu, select “Writing and Presentation Consultants.”

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